LANCASTER — Lancaster City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to proceed with a "friendly lawsuit" challenging the constitutionality of a proposed change in 911 service funding.
Ordinances passed recently by Lincoln and Garrard fiscal courts implement a new funding source for the area's 911 call center, Bluegrass 911, by placing a monthly fee on most water meters.
Lincoln and Garrard counties have traditionally funded 911 service via monthly fees placed on landline telephones, but that revenue source is drying up as fewer and fewer people are paying for landlines.
Bluegrass 911 Director Russ Clark said Monday the number of landlines in the call center's coverage area continues to shrink by about 200 every month.
Officials in both counties have moved forward with a plan to implement monthly 911 fees on all water meters and eventually do away with monthly landline fees.
But because no one in Kentucky has funded a 911 center with a utility fee before, Bluegrass 911 board members have encouraged the counties to test the constitutionality of the change before fully implementing it.
Lincoln and Garrard fiscal courts have both passed ordinances implementing 25-cent water-meter fees so there's a law on the books that can be challenged.
Garrard County Judge-Executive John Wilson, who also serves on the Bluegrass 911 board, asked Lancaster city council members Tuesday to file what's been referred to as a "friendly lawsuit" challenging the constitutionality of the new water-meter fee.
If the courts uphold the fee, the counties can move forward with their plan, officials have said.
The lawsuit is expected to be filed sometime this week.
Bluegrass 911 audit clean
Auditor Craig Butler told Bluegrass 911 board members Monday his audit of the most recent fiscal year for the emergency call center is largely positive.
"There's not a lot to talk about, which is good," Butler said. "You really did a great job this year of both your revenues and your expenses coming in close to budget."
Butler said Bluegrass 911 spent about $4,600 more than it budgeted, which represents a deviation of less than 1 percent.
Board member John Wilson pointed out Bluegrass 911 is paying off debt owed to the Lincoln County Fiscal Court faster than it budgeted, paying off $9,302 of the debt during the 2012 fiscal year — more than $7,300 above what was budgeted.
Had Bluegrass 911 not paid the extra debt off, it would have been under-budget on expenses, Wilson said.
Butler said going over on budgeted expenses is a technical violation of state law but "there's really no penalty that I've ever seen from the state."